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Old 01-04-2008, 06:25 PM   #1
Art Davis's Avatar
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Lalah and I are planning a three week or so getaway in February. Thought we would head for the warmth. Our current thinking is to do our usual thing of going south on I-5 through California (stopping at the Colonel Allensworth State Park---a defunct town started by black citizens, apparently an interesting historical park on I99 near Bakersfield), stopping at Joshua Tree (which we haven't been to yet), then over to Lost Dutchman State Park near Phoenix. I have some unfinished business with a mountain peak (Superstition Mountain) that I failed to conquer last year. Then over through El Paso and on to Big Bend NP in Texas.

We have been to Big Bend twice, but the most recent was (sigh!) all too many years ago.

Does anyone have any suggestion at all about Big Bend or any other place along the way that is just too good to pass up?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Art and Lalah

Edited for spelling.
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Old 01-04-2008, 07:14 PM   #2
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Hi Art,

No suggestions, but I will be in site #42 in the Chisos Basin 2/23 thru 2/29, so stop by & have a cup or a cool one.

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Old 01-04-2008, 08:41 PM   #3
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Chiricahua National Monument is located 120 miles southeast of Tucson. Take I-10 east from Tucson to the first exit for Willcox. Travel 3 miles into town to the stoplight and turn right. You will follow Arizona State Highway 186 for 32 miles to the junction of Arizona State Highway 181. Turn left and 4 miles later you will be at the Chiricahua entrance station.
Obtain gas in Willcox; gasoline is not available at or near the monument.

City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico about 30 miles northeast of Deming, NM off I-10, take US 180 northwest 24 miles, and then go northeast on NM 61 for four miles to the park access road.

North of Big Bend and Alpine, TX: Balmorhea State Park is located on 45.9 acres in the foothills of the Davis Mountains southwest of Balmorhea in Reeves County. Visitors to Balmorhea State Park can enjoy a swim in the CCC-constructed pool, the park's main attraction is a large (77,053 sq. ft.) artesian spring pool that is open daily and fed by San Solomon Springs. The springs also fill a 'cienega' (desert wetland) and the canals of a refugium, home to endangered species of fish, assorted invertebrates, and turtles. The pool differs from most public pools in several respects: the 1 3/4-acre size, the 25-foot depth and the 72 to 76 degree constant temperature. It also has a variety of aquatic life in its clear waters. With a capacity of more than 3 1/2 million gallons, the pool has plenty of room for swimmers, while offering a unique setting for scuba and skin diving. The 77,053 square ft San Solomon Spring is the focal point of Balmorhea State Park. From 22 to 28 million gallons of water flow through the spring-fed swimming pool each day.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in far West Texas on U.S. Highway 62/180. The driving distance is 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas, or 56 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is close enought to drive to Carlsbad Caverns from the campground as a day trip. One could also get to it from Van Horn, Texas off I-10.
Monahans Sandhills State Park consists of 3840 acres of sand dunes, some up to 70 feet high, in Ward and Winkler Counties, about a half-hour's drive west of Odessa. To reach the park, travel Interstate 20 and Exit Mile Marker #86 to Park Road 41.
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Old 01-05-2008, 11:26 AM   #4
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Hi Art...we will be heading back to Chisos Basin in early Feb. Hope to leave Belleville on Wed. Leave daughter's in Windsor on Sunday, and wave bye-bye to the snow and ice for three months Kentucky,Arkansas, and hopefully Texas State Parks for month one. Will try the South Padre Island area before heading to the "Bend" at the end of Jan.
After that it is westward-ho to Arizona for a month and a leisurely month return home.
Just north of Big Bend NP at Marathon, we lucked into a party at the Marathon Motel and CG...Barry's Buffalo Birthday food and drink and dancing! Apparently this is an annual event sponsored by a local buffalo rancher, We met campers from Big Bend who came back for a few days just for the Bash. Check the Marathon Motel website for details...I think it is on Feb 18 this year. Like the gal at the desk said "Might as well join us 'cuz we'll just annoy the Hell outta ya if you dont!"
Happy camping, and if you spot an avocado green Trillium ( aka The Road Toad) Honk and wave.
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Old 01-05-2008, 11:46 AM   #5
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Hi Art,

You might keep in mind Balmorhea as has been mentioned, and keep in mind Davis Mountains SP. Both are before you get to Big Bend and are great because you will still have a lot of driving to do to get into Big Bend. Here is my travel blog on a recent trip out in that area:

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Old 01-05-2008, 01:25 PM   #6
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We were in Big Bend 2 weeks ago. The weather was great with a few mornings around 16 degrees but warmed up to the low 70s by mid-day. Stayed at the Rio Grande Village in the RV lot. Operated by Forever Resorts, they have electricity, water and sewer hookups there for $21/night. Only 25 sites but they don't take reservations, just first come. Otherwise you can camp in the federal campground for $14/night with no hookups. Was getting busy when we left before New Year. The Chisos Basin had very few occupants and the Cottonwood had only 2 tent campers.

The roads in the park were in fairly good shape, but the Hot Springs foundation was filled with silt from earlier floods. If you are into bird watching you will be pleased. Saw more coyotes than javelina this trip.

Have a good visit!

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Old 01-06-2008, 08:41 PM   #7
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Shifting this from General Chat to Camping forum. Maybe it'll get a few more looks ... (It seems to have played out in General Chat.)

BTW: I was going to suggest that you not miss the hot springs, but I'm disappointed to read they are silted (again).

If you have the time, a float down the river through Santa Elena canyon is nice. (There are a couple of river rafting companies in Terlingua or Study Butte that do it for hire.) Also, of course, be sure to hike some of the trails in the National Park. It's a whole 'nother view from what you'll see on the roads and in the campground(s).

Also BTW: If you want to sound like a local, "Study Butte" is pronounced Stoody Beaut; and Marathon is said with the first syllable stressed, instead of the last. (MARE-uh-thun)

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Old 01-06-2008, 09:54 PM   #8
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Colonel Allensworth is a fascinating place, I highly recommend it visiting it. There are way better places to camp, so I wouldn't bother staying there unless there aren't any other options. By the way, it's not on Hwy 99, it's on Hwy 43 north of Bakersfield and south of me (Hanford). If you want to spend the night in my driveway, you're welcome. Gina did a few months ago and gave it a 10! P
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:49 PM   #9
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Mary F,

Thanks for moving this. Also, I do appreciate the suggestions the rest of you have given me. Alistair and John, I will look for you guys if we get there while you are there. Lisa, thanks for the invite! If we were to hit "Disastersville" while in the vicinity we just might show up! What is the problem with the camping at Colonel Allensworth, by the way?


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Old 01-11-2008, 12:16 AM   #10
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Hello Art and Lalah,

We are heading south on the first of February, also. Planning 2 months before we return, with Bisbee, Arizona being our destination.

Joshua Tree: We have stayed at White Tanks and Cottonwood. White Tanks is primitive, no water and pit toilets. Sites are among hugh rocks. There are several hiking trails. Cottonwood has running water, flush toilets, and a dump station. Several nice hikes from this campground, also. The Keyes Queen Valley Ranch tour is excellent. Pre-registration is at the visitor's center in Twentynine Palms, right where the road starts into the park.

Kartchner Cavens, near Benson, Arizona, has a nice campground and the cavern tour(s) is very good.

If you want to "Shun-Pike It" across New Mexico, you can pickup up New Mexico Hwy 9 by turning south a little east of Lordsburg. Pancho Villa State Park at Columbus is nice and has interesting history in the pursuit of Pancho Villa and the use of vehicles that were used later in WW 1.

We have also stayed at most of the parks others have mentioned. They are all nice.

Here's to safe travels
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Old 01-17-2008, 08:17 AM   #11
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Art & Lalah - We'll be a few weeks behind you (3/22-3/28) but hope you folks will enjoy Big Bend as much as we do. From your Superstition Mountain comment, it sounds as if you enjoy hiking. The South Rim is a great trail that can be done in a day if you push hard (14 mi RT) but, for old folks like Cindy and me, is better as an overnighter. On our last trip (01/07), we got a couple of inches of snow while camped on the Rim - there's just something about cactii, the Rio Grande and snow that seems a bit surreal. Lost Mine, Burro Mesa, Balancing Rock, Ernst Tinaja and both Canyons (Boquillas and Santa Elena) are shorter day hikes. If you have 4WD, the back road drives are great and many of these may be passable in your auto (check with the Rangers).

JohnC - Site 42 in the Basin is our favorite spot in that campground and where we'll be staying in March.

Other than the BB dates, no firm agenda for our trip but we're planning to stop for a couple of days in Palo Duro then over to Guadalupe Mountains NP for a little exploring and a visit to Carlsbad before heading south to the Bend. Anyone with a similar schedule speak up and maybe we can share a visit.

Al & Cindy
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Old 01-21-2008, 10:54 PM   #12
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I second the Santa Elena Canyon trip, it's unforgetable. The Marfa lights between Marfa and Alpine are quite interesting as well.
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:15 PM   #13
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Hi Guys..Alistair & Inge are moving up their Big Bend trip to Sunday27 of Jan...too cold and rainy to stay on South Padre!!!! Got to Del Rio and the rain has stopped and it looks promising. Seminole tonite and Marathon tomorrow then Cisos. Might see some of you there.
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Old 01-26-2008, 06:09 PM   #14
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Al & Cindy K ----

I guess you guys are the reason I had to go in Feb. this year. (March is my preferred) OH well --you snooze you lose. Hope ya'll have a great trip.

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Old 01-26-2008, 08:28 PM   #15
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We are heading south on the first of February, also. Planning 2 months before we return, with [b]Bisbee, Arizona being our destination.
I really enjoyed my stay at The Shady Dell in Bisbee. They have a few spots in addition to the trailers that they rent out. I have good memories of that trip.
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Old 01-30-2008, 08:55 AM   #16
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johnc, sorry bout that! We normally go in early January but got snowed on last year on our overnighter to the South Rim and the wife says no more backcountry trips if the weather is bad. Hoping to catch some of the spring blooms this time - what are our chances of that? You Texans are sure lucky to have such a gem right there in your backyard. Its a long haul from NC but worth every mile of it. Maybe we'll run into you folks one of these days. If you ever get east, let us know and maybe we can offer a few suggestions for this part of the country.

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Old 01-31-2008, 12:58 PM   #17
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Al & Cindy K,
No problem! Hope ya'll get to see the desert in bloom. That's what I go for every year. Enjoy your trip & good luck.

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Old 02-06-2009, 05:08 PM   #18
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Bringing this topic up again as this year we might actually get to Big Bend in March.

My questions: Do I have to have reservations? It looks like there are lots of first come/first served sites. Is this correct, and do I have a chance of getting a site.

Looked at site #42 and it is full on some of the days I want.

Have you stayed at Cottonwood or The Village campgrounds, or do you really prefer the Basin?

Is the Basin very difficult to get in and out of? Do I want to camp at different places rather than driving in and out of the Basin as a home base?
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Old 02-08-2009, 08:09 PM   #19
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Hi Nancy,

If you hang around here much, I'm sure you know I can't pass up a Big Bend thread.

March is probably the busiest time of the year due to the college kids on Spring Break so I'd go with the reservations. Having said that, after arriving, we've frequently found a better site than the one we'd reserved and have always been allowed to switch without any hassle. You may want to take your chances but for us, after a 2K mile drive, we want to know we've got a spot.

If you can't reserve a site in the Basin for your entire stay, don't hesitate to lock in a night or two at RGV. Its a neat campground and there's a lot to do at that end of the Park - Boquillas Canyon, Hot Springs, Old Ore Road (if you have 4WD). We also like Cottonwood on the west side - Its more primitive (no generators and pit toilets only) but usually less crowded with more wildlife. Its also more convenient for visits to Terlingua, Study Butte and if you have an extra day, Big Bend Ranch State Park (beautiful drive along the river).

The drive from the main road into the Basin is about four miles with three or four hairpin curves over the last section. Its not too difficult for smaller trailers and poses no problem at all for a single vehicle.

We like the Basin because of its proximity to three of the signature trails in the Park - The Window, Lost Mine and South Rim (The last is better done as an overnighter for anyone who spends as much time behind a desk as I do). It also has a decent restaurant if you want a break from cooking.

If you have time and can work it out, spending time at each campground is a great way to experience Big Bend. That's what we'll be doing over Easter. If anyone else has plans to be there around then, please drop by and say 'hi'.

Al & Cindy

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